Introduction: The BL.755 family represented the main anti-armour weapon used by the RAF for the better part of four decades. This weapon would make a great addition to the game, and the fact it is not in game is sorely being felt by British aircraft.
Background: From it’s formation in 1948, to about 1961, NATO’s main response against a Soviet invasion would have been the immediate use of nuclear force. However, the Berlin Standoff in 1961 showed how precarious this situation was, and how a minor situation could quickly escalate into full-blown nuclear conflict. To avoid this, a new response system called Flexible Response was implemented, in which conventional forces were to be used to stave off any invasion, with nuclear force only being used if deemed absolutely necessary. To do this, conventional weapons such as bombs and rockets were to be used. In the RAF’s case, their main anti-armour weapon at this time was the SNEB. This weapon allowed for the carriage of numerous weapons in an aerodynamic pod. However, by the late-Sixties, the Air Staff came to the conclusion that a new weapon was needed, as by now the SNEB was deemed unsuitable for use against tanks, due to the aircraft having to stay within the engagement zone for a long period, leaving it vulnerable to AA fire, as well as the system offering low chances of destruction against newer vehicles. A new weapon was sought for this role. A cluster bomb was chosen, thus beginning the BL.755 story.
BL.755: The BL.755 was designed with the express purpose of taking on Soviet armour formations. Each bomb was divided into seven compartments that carried 147 submunitions in total. Each submunition was “telescoped” to reduce length, meaning that each bomblet would extend in size during flight. When fully extended, a standoff fuse protruded from the front of the missile, with a HEAT warhead in the middle and stablising strakes in the back. The submunitions deploy in an elliptical pattern, meaning two weapons could cover an area the size of a football pitch. The weapon was designed for use at low-level, with an arming vane being released after separation from the aircraft. This would trigger hydraulic rams that would jettison the bomb’s outer skin, followed by the inflation of a series of compressed-air filled bladders, that would force the bomblets outwards. Once in the air, they fully extend and glide towards the target. The bomb saw use with the RAF in the Falklands War in 1982, and in Operation Granby in 1991.
Mk.1 Bomblet: In a cluster bomb, the main destructive aspect is not the bomb itself, but rather, the bomblets it released. In the case of the BL.755, this was the Mk.1 bomblet, which carried a HEAT warhead, aimed specifically at working against the top armour of Soviet tanks. Each bomb would contain a total of 147 of these submunitions, divided into seven sections of 21 bomblets each. The release process described above would project the bomblets outwards, some up to 18 metres away, in an elliptical shape, in order to cover the greatest distance possible. This is necessary in order to give each aircraft greater damage potential than with normal bombs or rockets, allowing multiple targets to be damaged or destroyed in one single pass, allowing for greater survivability rates. Aircraft would fly low, at treetop level and at high speed in order to reduce the reaction time of enemy AA. Multiple bombs would be dropped, with time between releases depending on the concentration of vehicles in the column. Each bomblet was “extendable”, being compressed in their respective section until ejected, when they would extend in both directions. To the front, a probe for the HEAT warhead would pop out, wild in the back, fins would extend outwards. These would stabilise the bomblet whilst in flight. Upon contact with enemy armour, the bomblet’s shaped charge would release an explosively formed jet that could penetrate up to 250mm of armour, in addition to releasing fragmentation which was could be used against surrounding infantry and lightly armoured vehicles.
IBL.755: The appearance of the T-72, and eventually the T-80, in ever-growing quantities meant that the effectiveness of BL.755 was become less relevant. The VJ.291 guided-cluster bomb was meant to solve this, but was cancelled in 1980 on the grounds that it lacked effectiveness. AST.1227 was a competition held to find a new anti-armour weapon. Various different proposals were made, including for both Maverick and Paveway, as well as various dispenser types, but these were found to be ineffective. In the end, the Improved BL.755, or IBL.755 was chosen. Standard BL.755s were upgraded, since it was mostly a change in the bomblet that occurred, which was able to defeat the top armour of the T-72. The main difference is the fact that the submunitions were now parachute-xxxx. The IBL.755 saw use in the Kosovo War in 1999, and in Operation Telic in 2003.
RBL.755: An improvement of the IBL.755 with the radio altimeter taken from retired WE.177 nuclear bombs. This allowed for the bomb to be dropped from a higher altitude, yet still offer a high saturation on a target, which decreases as altitude increases, thus allowing it to remain useful. The RBL.755 saw use in the Kosovo War in 1999, and in Operation Telic in 2003.
Mk.2 bomblet: The Mk.2 bomblet was intended to improve upon and replace the Mk.1 bomblet, and was used in the IBL.755 and later on, the RBL.755, variants, which were improvements of the BL.755. The Mk.2 is almost identical to the Mk.1, and is the same size when folded, but differs mainly in the use of a parachute, rather than the stabilising fins. This was done to give a smaller overall impact pattern on the ground, allowing the bomblets to be concentrated over a smaller area, and thus, meaning more bomblets are put on target. In addition to this, the parachute allows the effective angle against armour to increase, allowing for more effective penetration.
BL.755 could be carried on:
Blackburn Buccaneer S.1 (test)/S.2
Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR.1/T.2/GR.3/T.4
BAE Sea Harrier FRS.1/FA.2
BAE Hawk 50/100/200
SEPECAT Jaguar GR.1/T.2/GR.3/T.4
Panavia Tornado GR.1
McDonnell Douglas Phantom FGR.2
BAE Sea Harrier FRS.1/FA.2
BAE Hawk 100/200
SEPECAT Jaguar GR.1/T.2/GR.3/T.4
Panavia Tornado GR.1/GR.4
BAE Harrier GR.5/GR.7/GR.9/T.10/T.12
Retirement: The BL.755 family was retired in 2007 from British service in accordance with the Convention on Cluster Munitions, being replaced by CRV7, Brimstone and Paveway.
Conclusion: This weapon would make British aircraft much more effective in game, increasing their survivability and their ability to deal with multiple targets in one pass. The lack of PGMs on most British aircraft can certainly be felt, and while not making up for the difference completely, the BL.755 family will most certainly improve the ground attack capabilities in game.
AP 101B-3101 & 2-15C
AP 3456H, Part 5, Sect 1, Chap 2
“Typhoon to Typhoon: RAF Air Support Projects and Weapons Since 1945” by Chris Gibson
“British Secret Projects: Hypersonics, Ramjets and Missiles” by Chris Gibson
Special thanks to @Gunjob for the primary sources from the RAF Museum. This suggestion would have been much harder and much less detailed without them.